Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 things to improve your grades

One of my most popular YouTube videos is the one that shares what to do after you fail a test. I love the questions I receive in the comments section of the video because most come from students who are so eager to do well in college. 

I've met enough students who had GPA's of 1.0 their first try in college and who came back later - when they were motivated - and got 4.0's to know that grades are more about strategy and focus than any kind of inherent intelligence. 

Sometimes students struggle in classes simply because they don't have the right strategies.

And unless you're already easily getting a 4.0, there's probably more you can do to get better grades and limit stress (e.g. I never pulled an all-nighter).

So below are the top 5 strategies I used in college that helped me and so many others get straight-A's: 

1) Schedule daily library time
When I built my schedule each semester I purposefully left time in between classes to force myself to work in the library. As a commuter, it's hard to resist the temptation to just go to class and go home. Spacing classes out is a great way to make the most of your campus experience.

Create a block of time each day you're on campus to spend in the library. I was usually in the library for a few hours Monday-Thursday and it worked great. 

I never had to do homework at home, at night, or on the weekends. I never had to turn down friends to hang out because I had to study. I was always ahead, and it felt great.

Even if the library isn't your favorite place, dedicate yourself to spend time on campus in a place that motivates you to do your homework. Schedule it in and go without fail.

2) Use your professors' office hours
In addition to meeting with every professor as a potential mentor, I always talked to professors about big assignments and exams. 

For example, when assigned an essay I'd do my initial research and then come to the professor with any questions that came up and to run my thesis by him or her for feedback. 

I also brought my exams back. For example, when you get math or science exams back, check over the answers you got wrong; if you can't figure out why you got any one wrong, bring the exam to your professor and ask for help.

When you're diligent with this, professors are more than happy to help because they'll see your motivation. 

3) Choose classes (and a major) you really like
I'm sure it would have been possible, but I'm not as confident I would have gotten straight-A's if I'd taken calculus or organic chemistry. 

I chose a major I loved (communications), and when it came to science and math-based general education requirements, I chose only what I needed for my major (which I knew by checking the catalog of the transfer university I planned on attending).

When it came to requirements like history, I chose courses that truly fascinated me. 

Don't choose classes based on convenience. Choose them based on what you find interesting, and do your research. When you like a class it's so much easier to do well. 

4) Put syllabus reminders in a calendar
Stay on top of due dates and develop an organizational system that makes staying on top of assignments in multiple classes easy. My life saver was my palm pilot (lol I know, I know - I went to college before the iPhone, okay?) and Google calendar reminders sent to my phone (see #2 in this blog post for how to set this up). 

5) Go to class
I know this seems obvious, but I cannot tell you how many people boasted to me that college was so great because professors don't take attendance so you really don't have to go to class. (Note: all of those people took 5-6 years to get their bachelors degrees and failed a few classes).

Show up every day unless you're really sick. Sit in the front row. Make it a point to contribute at least once every class. 

Getting good grades is less about natural intelligence and much more about being fully engaged. You can do this. 

What other strategies have worked well for you in getting good grades? Please share on the Facebook page!

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